KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The last Vietnam veteran serving in the Tennessee Army National Guard has donned his uniform for the last time.
Born and raised in Oliver Springs, Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Peck joined the Army at age 17. After more than 40 years of service, he is retiring.
Sgt. Maj. Peck enlisted in 1970 serving as a combat engineer in Vietnam with the 20th Engineer Brigade. For the next 42 years he worked his way up the ranks. Now he retires with the highest rank possible for an enlisted man.
Peck enlisted when he was just shy of his 18th birthday, believing it was something he was meant to do.
"I just feel like I always wanted to do something for somebody," said Sgt. Maj. Peck.
After serving in Vietnam, he spent 10 years in active duty before joining the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
"That's all the years I've been in, my rank and all my ribbons," Peck said, describing his dress uniform.
He has decorations for each of the 42 years of service.
"I don't think you plan to stay, who would with some of the things I've been through?" he said.
But those experiences are what make him the soldier so many have looked up to.
"They see somebody they can look up to," Col. Jeff Archer with the 278th Armored Cavalry. "To see someone who has dedicated their life to the service of their country, that has been there, done that, and has come through it and led a lot of them through it."
Col. Archer served with Peck in Iraq in 2005. During that deployment they lost six soldiers.
"His ability to know how they would react and to kind of lead them through that had a tremendous impact on the younger soldiers and still today, he just knows what soldiers are feeling," Col. Archer said.
Peck knows, because he lost men serving in Vietnam.
"It feels like yesterday," he said looking at a faded photograph of several of his fellow soldiers from Vietnam. "You never forget some people, they're always kind of a part of you."
Four decades, three war zones and a life time of service, Command Sgt. Maj. Peck officially retires this Sunday on his 60th birthday.